Doors, chairs and what lies between

 

 

THE FIFTH COLUMN

The ministry of silly hats is finally closing its doors. Not that we have any doors. That is, none that are officially ours to close. But we here at the ministry we like to think that any and all the doors we pass through daily are, in some way, our doors.

One might say that all the doors we pass through in our lives are ours. They belong to us, just because we passed through them, or indeed we belong to them.

And, let me say as one who has led and participated in many consciousness-raising workshops, I want to include in that all the doorframes, or door spaces without actual doors in them. For, surely, there need be no actual door opening and closing to consider this passage completed?

Think of kitchens with doorless doorways leading into pantries, say. Or nightclubs with apertures offering ingress to mysteriously lit spaces beyond.

When it comes to doorways, one is both entering and exiting at the same time. They go both ways. Like the Roman god Janus, after whom the month of January is named. Janus had two faces on the same head: one faced backwards towards the old year just gone, while the other looked forwards into the year ahead.

Looking back, and considering the many different positions I have held within the ministry of silly hats, I see it would be impossible, in this limited space at least, to enumerate and evaluate them all. It would take a document longer than the report of the Warren commission.

So let me speak only of the position that has probably meant the most to me, personally and professionally, over the years: to wit, the chair of the interim committee. I should say, if I were adhering to the rules of the style council, the chairpersonship of the interim committee. But perhaps (note to subs), being halfway out the above mentioned door, I can be allowed this small infraction.

Also, I like the term “chair”. For one thing, it has become the default form of address at commissions of inquiry, as when the Hlaudis of the world, say, address the chairperson of the Zondo commission directly (“I cannot tell a lie, chair”).

For another, it reminds me of an occasion about a decade ago when I received the seldom-bestowed long-service award known as the Furniture Prize: basically, one had been around for so long one was deemed “part of the furniture”. So, yes, I see myself as part of the furniture — specifically, a chair.

Having become the chair of the interim committee, I believe I remained that even once the title was no longer official. It’s a bit like joining the KGB or the priesthood: you can’t really resign. Once you’ve signed up, that’s your job for life — you chair the interim committee, and that’s that.

Besides,there have been so many interims that I can’t help but see all spaces as spaces between other spaces. Like doorways, in fact.

Keep the powerful accountable

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Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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